DiCamillo Companion

Iford Manor

  • Earlier Houses: A substantial house was purchased and demolished circa 1820 by the Gaisford family to create space for the current walled garden.

    House & Family History: The Iford Estate sits on the steep slopes of the Frome Valley, which has seen human occupation since Roman times. Though the current house dates to the 15th or 16th century, Sir Thomas Hungerford owned a house here in the 14th century. Thomas Horton purchased the Iford Estate in the 16th century, after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and it was he who enlarged and rebuilt the House during Elizabeth's reign. The Hortons had sold up by the mid-17th century, and, by 1686, the Estate was in the ownership of William Chandler, a mill owner and salter from nearby Bradford-on-Avon. It's very likely that the Chandlers added the classical fa├žade (circa 1725-30) that is seen today on the main entrance to the House (the Chandlers also planted the hanging woodlands above the garden in the 18th century). Between 1773 and 1853, Iford was the seat of the Gaisford family (Thomas Gaisford was dean of Christchurch, Oxford); it was during their ownership that a substantial house was purchased and demolished, circa 1820, to create the current Walled Garden. The great English garden architect Harold Peto purchased Iford Manor in 1899 from the Rooke family. Peto was the son of Sir Samuel Peto, 1st Bt., of Somerleyton Hall, and a partner with Sir Ernest George in a thriving architectural practice (a number of prominent architects got their starts with George & Peto, including Sir Edwin Lutyens, Herbert Baker, and Guy Dauber).

  • Garden & Outbuildings: Remaining at Iford until his death in 1933, Harold Peto created a garden of international importance, one where flowers occupy a subsidiary position among the statues, architectural elements, pools, colonnades, terraces, and broad walks. Peto believed that, in order to reach the highest level of beauty, a garden must be a combination of plants and architecture. In his manuscript, "The Boke of Iford," he wrote "Old buildings or fragments of masonry carry one's mind back to the past in a way that a garden of flowers only cannot do. Gardens that are too stony are equally unsatisfactory; it is the combination of the two in just proportion which is the most satisfactory." In the creation of his garden Peto particularly looked for remnants of ancient buildings and statuary; he was taken by the charm of old Italian gardens and took many buying trips to Italy to furnish the Iford garden. Following his own advice, Peto peppered his garden with follies and small buildings. The Casita is a sweet building with its own paved terrace and tall, thin pink marble columns on the front (circa 1200) that came from Verona. The figure of the dancing nymph in the niche inside came from the garden of the librarian of Chartres Cathedral and is believed to be Greco-Roman. On the Great Terrace is the "Capitoline Wolf," a medieval bronze statue of the she-wolf (11th-12th century) suckling Romulus and Remus (late 15th century). This great piece was made for Peto by Angelis of Naples from a mould taken from the original in the Capitoline Museum in Rome. Because of fears of damage to the original in the manufacturing of the mould, this was the last piece known to have been cast from the original. Close by is a 2nd or 3rd century Greek sarcophagus of a boar hunt. The Japanese Garden was created by Peto as a place of quiet contemplation. Nearby is the great staircase that leads up into the woods, at the top of which is the King Edward VII Column. The column was dedicated during World War I to "Edward the Peacemaker" for his efforts to avert a European Armageddon. The hounds on plinths by the colonnade are 18th century German and were probably removed from gate piers. The Cloisters may be the piece de resistance of the garden. Completed by Peto in 1914, it was designed in the Italian Romanesque style of 1200 and has many architectural fragments and sculpture imbedded in its fabric. Two 13th century lions from Lombardy guard the entrance, while the 1450 doorway came from a house in Mantua. The gates are circa 1350 and probably came from Verona. Inside, the very fine 14th century well-head in the center came from a convent in Aquilegia; the panel of the cross in the court is 9th century Byzantine. Around the ambulatory is Renaissance sculpture that perfectly captures the spirit Peto sought to create in his "Haunt of Ancient Peace." The Cloister is used today for operas and other musical performances (in 2009 twenty small-scale performances of three different operas were staged here). In 1965 Iford was purchased by Elizabeth Cartwright of Aynho Park in Northamptonshire. Miss Cartwright engaged the services of landscape architect Lanning Roper, who, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, advised on the restoration of the garden. The Peto Garden won the Historic Houses Association/Christie's Garden of the Year Award in 1998. A number of plants of particular interest can be found at Iford: standard Wisteria sinensis blossoms across much of the front of the House and up flights of steps linking the terraces (particularly good in late May); Phillyria latifolia; Buxus sempervirens grows in wild tree form in the woods above the House and is extensively used in the gardens as a structural plant; Cupressus sempervirens; Hemerocallis citrina, the scented day lily; and naturalized Martagon lilies.

  • Architect: Harold Ainsworth Peto

    Date: 1897-1917
    Designed: Gardens, pools, statuary, and colonnade for himself, mostly 1899-1907, with additional work 1907-17.

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  • Country Life: XXII, 450, 1907. LII, 242, 1922. May 18, 1972. Jan 24, 1991.

  • Title: Peto Garden at Iford Manor, The
    Author: NA
    Year Published: 1999
    Reference: pgs. 2, 5, 8, 13-16
    Publisher: NA
    ISBN: NA
    Book Type: Light Softback

  • House Listed: Grade II*

    Park Listed: Grade I

  • "Mistresses" (2009 - TV series, episode 2.1, for the wedding in the gardens and cloister). "The Secret Garden" (2020 - as the garden).
  • Seat of: William and Marianne Cartwright-Hignett; Cartwright-Hignett family here since 1965.

    Past Seat of: Horton family, 16th century. Chandler family, 17th-18th centuries. Gaisford family, 1777-1853. Captain Rooke, 1853-99. Harold Ainsworth Peto, 1899-1933; Peto family here until 1965.

    Current Ownership Type: Individual / Family Trust

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Private Home

    Ownership Details: The House is open by special arrangement.

  • House Open to Public: Yes

    Phone: 01225-863-146

    Fax: 01225-862-364

    Email: info@ifordmanor.co.uk

    Website: http://www.ifordmanor.co.uk

    Awards: HHA/Christie's Garden of the Year Award 1998. (Shared with Mellerstain).

    Historic Houses Member: Yes